12 Facts About the “Time to Make the Donuts” Guy

LoveWilliamsburgLife.com/Erin McCarthy
LoveWilliamsburgLife.com/Erin McCarthy

In 1980, Michael Vale was a working actor who had logged some time on the stage and landed a few small parts in popular TV shows and movies, but was hardly a well-known face. Then Dunkin' Donuts came calling and all that changed for the New York City native.

In the early 1980s, Vale became "Fred the Baker," Dunkin’ Donuts’s sleep-deprived mascot who spent most of the next two decades baking up fresh batches of donuts to be glazed, frosted, and ravenously consumed. Here are 12 things you might not know about the man behind the mug.

1. HE WAS A CLASSICALLY TRAINED ACTOR.

Like many famous pitchmen, Vale’s training was as a classical actor. As a student at the Dramatic Workshop at The New School in New York City, his classmates included (Oscar winner) Rod Steiger, (Oscar nominee) Tony Curtis, and (Golden Globe nominee) Ben Gazzara.

2. HE PLAYED A CAB DRIVER IN A HATFUL OF RAIN.

Vale’s film debut came in 1957, playing a taxi driver in Fred Zinnemann’s A Hatful of Rain, adapted by Michael V. Gazzo from his play of the same name.

3. HE WAS IN MARATHON MAN.

Vale’s most prominent movie role was as a jewelry salesman in John Schlesinger’s Marathon Man in 1976, starring Dustin Hoffman and Laurence Olivier. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Vale deemed the opportunity to work with Olivier “the most wonderful experience of my life ... He called [us actors] schmucks, but he did it with love.”

4. HE WAS A REGULAR ON BROADWAY.

Of his appearance in a summer stock performance of George Bernard Shaw’s Androcles and the Lion, Vale once remarked: “I was thrown to the lions.” He made his Broadway debut in 1962, in the appropriately named stinker The Egg, which closed after eight performances. The Impossible Years, which debuted on October 13, 1965, lasted much longer—a full 670 performances.

5. YOU PROBABLY CAUGHT HIM ON ONE OF YOUR FAVORITE CHILDHOOD SHOWS.

From 1961 through 1988, Vale had bit parts on a number of popular television shows, including Car 54, Where Are You?, Kojak, and 3-2-1 Contact (in the recurring role of Soapy Suds).

6. HE PITCHED COTTAGE CHEESE BEFORE HE PITCHED DONUTS.

Before he became the sleepy-eyed face of Dunkin’ Donuts, Vale was a pitchman for Breakstone’s cottage cheese and sour cream. As the irascible “Sam Breakstone,” he starred in a series of commercials where his pursuit of perfection caused him to rant and rave, with each bit ending with a pint-sized terrier nipping at his pant leg. This spot from 1977 co-stars Jeffrey Tambor (a.k.a. George Bluth Sr.).

7. HE PLAYED FRED THE BAKER FOR 15 YEARS.

Vale landed his gig as Fred the Baker in 1982 and played the part for 15 years, until his retirement in 1997. Of the estimated 100 commercials he made in that time, he once joked to Entertainment Weekly that this one was his favorite, because “I got paid twice.”

8. VALE WASN'T THE DUNKIN' MARKETING TEAM'S FIRST CHOICE.

Of the hundreds of actors who auditioned for the role of Fred the Baker, Vale was not the marketing team’s first choice; they were more interested in landing well-known actor-comedian Lou Jacobi. “As soon as Michael Vale walked into the bathroom in his pajamas and said ‘Time to make the doughnuts, time to make the doughnuts,’ we knew,” ad exec Rob Berger told CNN in 2005.

9. FRED'S CATCHPHRASE TOOK ON A LIFE OF ITS OWN.

Vale’s “time to make the donuts” catchphrase became so popular that Dunkin’ Donuts founder William Rosenberg used it as the title for his 2001 autobiography.

10. VALE ONLY EVER MADE ONE DONUT.

While his on-screen persona was a tireless baker, Vale copped to only making one donut himself. “I didn't add the sprinkles or frosting,” he quipped. “I was too exhausted.”

11. FRED'S RETIREMENT WAS KIND OF A BIG DEAL.

When market research indicated that customers did not want to see Fred leave, the company created an entire advertising campaign around his retirement. Bob Dole, Mary Lou Retton, Sugar Ray Leonard, and Larry Bird appeared in a series of commercials, offering Fred their thoughts on retirement. On September 22, 1997, Dunkin’ Donuts even threw Fred a retirement party and parade in Boston, giving away nearly six million donuts.

12. VALE PASSED AWAY IN 2005.

Vale passed away in New York City on December 24, 2005 from complications with diabetes. He was 83 years old.

Winner of Reynolds Wrap Contest Will Get Paid $10,000 to Sample the Country's Best BBQ

iStock/bhofack2
iStock/bhofack2

Which American city has the best barbecue is the root of one of the country's oldest culinary debates. As Thrillist reports, Reynolds Wraps is looking for one unbiased individual to travel the United States sampling barbecue ribs to determine which location makes them best—and the aluminum foil brand will pay them $10,000 for their trouble.

The winner of the 2019 Reynolds Wrap contest will take a two-week trip to "some of the most notorious BBQ cities," which last year included Nashville, Memphis, Kansas City, Dallas, and Austin. As Chief Grilling Officer, the smoked meat connoisseur will be tasked with identifying the best barbecue ribs in America, with Reynolds providing travel, lodging, and a $10,000 stipend for them and a guest to make the journey as smooth as possible. In return, the company asks that the CGO share grilling tips, techniques, and photos of their feasts to its website and social channels.

According to Reynolds Wrap, the position is perfect for anyone who doesn't mind "being paid to taste test some of the most delicious BBQ ribs across the country, posting envy-inducing pictures of your food and falling asleep every night dreaming about your next rack of ribs." Anyone can apply by submitting a photo of themselves grilling their favorite recipe along with 100 words pitching themselves for the job to careers@ReynoldsWrapCGO.com. The application deadline is June 19 and the barbecue tour starts sometime in August.

If you're not selected the contest winner, that shouldn't stop you from planning your own barbecue-themed road trip this summer. Here are some of the best barbecue cities in the country and where to eat in each one.

[h/t Thrillist]

8 Things You Might Not Know About LongHorn Steakhouse

Mike Mozart, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Mike Mozart, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Since its founding in 1981, LongHorn Steakhouse has become a familiar destination for those seeking sirloins and strip steaks. With more than 500 restaurants across the country and a 5 percent total sales growth in 2018 [PDF], LongHorn has definitely branded itself as a cut above in the steakhouse market. Dig into these facts about the dinner chain.

1. The original LongHorn location was once an adult bookstore.

George McKerrow Jr., a part-time bartender, opened the first LongHorn Steaks Restaurant & Saloon in Atlanta in August 1981. Before remodeling the building as a restaurant, though, it was an x-rated video- and bookstore. McKerrow added tablecloths, a jukebox, and bumper stickers to the walls, but he kept the back-lit booths that were once used for watching short peepshow videos.

2. LongHorn almost never got off the ground.

After LongHorn opened, it had a rough time taking off. "I had quit my previous job, fronted a lot of my own money, had a young daughter, and I was spending my days building that restaurant, literally, with my own two hands," McKerrow told The Atlantan in 2018. At the end of the first month, LongHorn was serving just a handful of meals a day, with McKerrow cooking, waiting tables, and washing the dishes.

3. A snowstorm saved the restaurant.

By January 1982, McKerrow was weeks away from shutting down LongHorn. But then one night, it started to snow—something that is a real rarity in Atlanta (and that particular storm is still known as the Snow Jam of '82). Drivers soon abandoned their cars on the roads, and LongHorn became a shelter from the freak blizzard. "We pulled a sign out front that said 'Drinks $1 While It Snows,'" Dave George, a former president of LongHorn Steakhouse told AirTran Magazine in 2006. "So all these people forced to pull over walked in 'til they filled the place up. And over the storm's three days, the steaks plus the genuinely friendly atmosphere surprised people, generating loyalty." By springtime, word-of-mouth had gotten LongHorn off the ground.

4. LongHorn really is all about the meat.

A slab of steak on a white plate with a knife
Yelp Inc, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

It was McKerrow's passion for grilling and dream of serving the perfect steak that led him to open the restaurant. Today, menus revolve around including ribeyes, T-bones, their signature porterhouse, a slow-roasted prime rib, and Flo's Filet, which LongHorn says was named for a server who loved that particular cut.

5. McKerrow didn't stop with LongHorn.

After the success of LongHorn, McKerrow expanded his steakhouse empire by opening Capital Grille. In 2002, he teamed up with Ted Turner to launch Ted's Montana Grill, which he is still the president and CEO of today.

6. Employees must complete extensive training to become a LongHorn Grill Master.

Every LongHorn location has two or three employees who have completed the training to be considered "Grill Masters." Once these grill chefs are certifiably ready to tackle any meat order, the best of the best can compete in a company-wide "Steak Master" competition. During the yearly contest, multiple "grill-off" rounds narrow 5000 Grill Masters down to seven for the final showdown. If you live near Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, congratulations—your ribeye might have been seared by 2018 reigning champion Michelle Cerveney.

7. LongHorn has a grill hotline for holiday weekends.

To take some of the pressure off family grill masters during the Fourth of July, LongHorn launched a call-in helpline to answer anyone's burning questions about the art of preparing dinner over flames in 2013. Called the Grill Us Hotline, the program put 25 Grill Masters on call during the evenings of the holiday weekend. The hotline has since continued and been expanded to cover Memorial Day weekend as well.

8. On the web, LongHorn is in an imagined relationship with Denny's.

In one of the more bizarre corners of the internet exists a community of users, especially on blogging site Tumblr, that create anthropomorphized accounts for various restaurant brands. In June 2013, two months after Denny's launched their official Tumblr account, an unofficial Tumblr was created for LongHorn Steakhouse. Whoever ran the site, which has since been deleted, began making references to being in love with Denny's. As things tend to do on the internet, the idea took off and resulted in a community of users who spent their time shipping "Denhouse."

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